Are you looking for a way to express your ideas, perspectives and creative ability? Such an outlet is available through the Syford Poetry Contest, an opportunity for students to submit their original poetry for the chance to earn recognition and win prizes.
“The [English] department likes to give students the opportunity to showcase their writing abilities and earn recognition for their skills,” said Professor Peter Elliot.
Elliot teaches in the English department and is in charge of the Syford Poetry Contest this year. “For professors in the department who judge the contest, it gives us an opportunity to read some very creative and thoughtful work. For students, it gives them a chance to further hone their writing skills and have a valuable professional development experience.”
Every year, the English department rotates between hosting the Syford Poetry Contest and the Genesis Prose Contest, which allows students the chance to shine light on both their poetic and prose writing during their time at AU. Next year, students will once again get the opportunity to enter the Genesis Prose Contest.
The English department is offering cash prizes to the top three poem entries. First place will receive a $75 prize, second place will receive $50, and third place will receive $25. In addition, the winning entries will be featured in the English department’s online literary arts magazine for the spring semester. Students whose work is published are given an excellent opportunity to gain professional writing experience and to build upon their resumes.
A panel of professors from the AU English department will be tasked with judging the submissions. There is no specific theme or prompt to follow. Students are free to put their imagination to work and present their own ideas to the judges.
“What we are most concerned with is creativity and excellent use of imagery and form,” Elliot said. He also mentioned that the judges will be looking for interesting, intriguing subject matter. “We enjoy reading about topics we might not otherwise anticipate,” he said.
Although the majority of entrants for the Syford Poetry Contest are English and writing majors, the English department is accepting entries from students in all majors who simply enjoy writing poetry or want to adopt a new hobby. The English department is encouraging students from all over campus to submit their work so the creative writing talents of a variety of people can be recognized. The English department would like to see a wide range of themes and poetic voices represented in the submissions.
The notion of having your creative writing evaluated can seem intimidating, but Elliot affirmed that the purpose of the contest is to encourage rather than to judge students for the quality of their work and overall writing ability.
“For starters, this isn’t for a grade,” Elliot said, “it’s for enjoyment, winning prize money and having your work published is great, but if you’re a writer, you write. It’s part of who you are and what you do.”
Elliot added that even students who do not win a prize will benefit from the writing practice and experience.
“If you think of Larry Bird—and I’m probably dating myself there—or other free throw shooters in basketball history, hitting 80 or 90 percent of their shots came after years of consistent practice and dedication to pursue their God-given talents,” Elliot said. “Writing is the same way. Even if a student does not win a prize in the contest, the experience can still be a meaningful stepping stone in his or her development as a writer.”
Anyone who wishes to participate in the Syford Poetry Contest can pick up an entry form on the table outside the English department, which is located on the third floor of Decker Hall. Students can submit up to three of their original poems along with the entry form. The deadline for all submissions is March 11, the Friday immediately before Spring Break. Judging will begin soon after and should be completed sometime in April, at which point the winners will be notified.
For those who would like to read winning entries from the 2014 Syford Poetry Contest, as well as other entries in the AU Literary Arts Magazine, visit aulitartsmag.tumblr.com. There is a heading for the winning entries of the Syford Poetry Contest, and a heading for winning entries in the Genesis Prose contest.